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CWC to invest US$400m in broadband expansion

Published:Sunday | December 14, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Cable & Wireless Communications (CWC) and Columbus International Inc are rolling out new plans for customer and broadband services even while still awaiting regulatory approval for their planned merger.

In a release on Friday, the companies promised a "low-price broadband package" on which it will be spending US$400 million.

CWC, which trades as LIME, is acquiring 100 per cent of Columbus, the owners of triple-play company Flow, for US$3.025 billion, inclusive of about US$1.2 billion of debt. The operations of both companies are to merge.

CWC's CEO, Phil Bentley, said in Friday's press release that the merger would result in "the most extensive fibre infrastructure ever constructed in the region, providing wider access to all, specifically targeting low-income households.

"We will ensure that all our customers have affordable access, while also providing industry leading 1 gigabyte-per-second broadband speeds for those customers who want an unparalleled online experience," he said.

The company said that 500 skilled jobs in the region would emerge over five years as the larger company expands its services. It also declared its support for net neutrality and number portability, which regional regulators have shown eagerness to implement.

Number portability will allow customers to retain their current phone numbers while switching networks.

CONSUMER CHOICE

"We are keen to facilitate consumer choice - it's our customers who define service excellence - and the freedom to access OTT services and to port mobile or fixed-line telephone numbers is a key element of our strategy," Bentley said.

OTT, or over-the-top services, include the contentious VoIP Internet calling services that regional telecoms have been attempting to block since mid-year. Digicel Group has been the most aggressive at fighting the incursion of unlicensed VoIP providers.

CWC said it would introduce 'no-contract' service offering, giving customers the ability to switch their landline, video, and broadband subscriptions at any time to any provider.

Earlier last week, the company also announced plans to launch a series of special 'customer panels' in 14 markets throughout the region, described as an organised platform to allow clients to "voice their concerns, share their opinions and express their service expectations".

The panels are expected to provide the two companies with an opportunity to gain first-hand feedback to aid in the development of a new, consolidated strategy built around their customers' appeals.

The telecom has launched its customer-friendly initiatives to get out in front of concerns that the CWC-Columbus merger would limit customer choice and dampen competition.

business@gleanerjm.com